Thai In Manayunk

Chabaa Thai Bistro

Craig LaBan takes a look at Chabaa Thai on Main Street in Manayunk. He discovers the spot has come a ways from its original muffled flavors.

The two-year-old Chabaa Thai Bistro has blossomed into a beautiful space, a bilevel room draped in silk fabrics, with gold-leafed walls and art that pays homage to the culture and spiritual life of Thailand. From the earth plow and Buddha imagery on the first floor to the silken lanterns, bamboo fishing traps, and floating market photography on the larger second floor, Chabaa exudes exotic serenity – even when the space hums

Two Bells – Very Good

Chabaa Thai Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Chabaa Thai Bistro [Official Site]

Main Line Beer Bar Gets Props

Teresa’s Next Door
Craig LaBan heads to Wayne to try the new beer bar Teresa’s Next Door.

Teresa’s Next Door is more than a curious social scene. It is the serious beer venue the Main Line has been needing, with 26 great brews on tap and more than 200 in the bottle. And no, the food isn’t lousy.

Two Bells – Very Good

Teresa’s Next Door

Blackbird Eating Establishment

Seared Gulf Shrimp
One of Craig LaBan’s favorite young chefs, Alex Capasso is back with his own place, Blackbird Eating Establishment in Collingswood, and it is excellent.

It is the seamless contemporary cooking from Capasso and his longtime kitchen lieutenant, William Connelly, that truly makes Blackbird worth a trip – even with a $3 bridge toll.

Rooted in French and Italian techniques with a few nods to Asia, and using excellent local ingredients, Blackbird’s kitchen delivers some memorable plates. Dinner isn’t cheap, with regular menu entrees ranging into the high $20s. But Capasso also turned out one of the best $30 four-course menus I’ve seen for a recent “farm to fork” event, though I’ll concede I couldn’t resist that menu’s numerous opportunities for upgrades.

Three Bells – Excellent

A welcome homecoming [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Blackbird Eating Establishment [Official Site]

Food and Drinq

food and drinq
The Philadelphia Inquirer has gone and taken the food blog plunge debuting Food and Drinq this morning. Backed by Inquirer writers Maureen Fitzgerald, Michael Klein, Rick Nichols and Craig LaBan Food and Drinq is the latest blog. So welcome aboard the Internets and good luck with the tubes. We just have one question, what took you so long?

Food and Drinq []


Craig LaBan tries the comfort food of 707 Restaurant & Lounge and finds some worthwhile comfort food updates but not enough to escape a one bell rating.

Yes, there is style galore at 707, which is one of the most handsome restaurants to open this year. But are the scenesters being fed with substance?

That depends, of course, upon what you order from the extensive and affordable menu of updated American classics, which hits highlights with overloaded salads and a nearly perfect omelet. But on the whole, the cleverly fussed-with comfort food – something of a cross between Jones and Marathon Grill – is packed with more “whimsy” than “yummy.”

One Bell – Hit Or Miss

707 Restaurant & Bar [Philadelphia Inquirer]
707 Restaurant & Bar [Official Site]

Modo Mio Reviewed

Modo Mio
Craig LaBan reports on Modo Mio, the Italian BYO on Girard Avenue that has quickly become a destination for those beyond the neighborhood.

The rustic flavors here are just as genuine and inviting as the sounds that fill the room. And they’re presented with a simplicity and affordability (four courses for $30!) that feels true to the spirit of Italy’s neighborhood osterias, which are smaller, more quirky, and a shade more homey than a trattoria.

Two Bells – Very Good

Modo Mio [Philadelphia Inquirer]

An Outside Look

New York Magazine’s restaurant blog Grub Street chimes in on the anonymity issue.

What makes the story especially satisfying, aside from the usual unmistakable air of Philadephia conflict, a city specialty akin to fame in L.A. or status in New York, is the comeuppance it provides LaBan, the worst of all American critics at preening his ridiculous disguises and costumes. We always found the idea of restaurant critics going out in disguise ludicrous, especially the famous ones, like Ruth Reichl or LaBan, whom everybody knew anyway.

Philadelphia’s Chief Critic Unmasked; Area Restaurants Say, ‘Who Cares?’ [Grub Street]

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